platters (2006-05)

Ménage à Trois

Jenny Lewis and Cat Power seduce with indie soul, but Sun Kil Moon has its sights set on a boy named Isaac Brock

Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins

Cat Power

Sun Kil Moon

Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins

It seems that through all this success, Jenny still wants a little more attention. But, hey, you don’t get to be an accomplished entertainer without the desire to own the spotlight.

The title track to Jenny Lewis’ first solo effort highlights the conflicted nature of the project itself. “Rabbit Fur Coat” tells the story of a young woman questioning her mother’s devotion to a socially condemned article of clothing, and ultimately admitting the same desire within herself. Maybe it is OK to want what you shouldn’t as long as you apologize for it ahead of time.

On the whole, the record is cleanly executed, offering an admirable amount of Lewis’ emotive vocals. The stacked vocal harmonies with the Watson Twins and her melodic mastery throughout the album foster soulful spirituals, flavored with an indie rock sensibility, a trick her friends in Bright Eyes have been pulling off for years. Unfortunately, the depth of song structure and arrangement that Rilo Kiley manages is missing. For a longtime fan of Jenny Lewis’ music this record will be easily enjoyed but in the end overshadowed by her other projects. Jenny’s real talent lies in stealing the spotlight rather than owning it.

Cat Power

But here, her skittish melancholy is uplifted by sauntering horn parts and nostalgic, occasionally playful, strings. Where her last full-length album, 2003’s You Are Free , was rife with hard sonic edges and fuzzy lyrical enigmas, The Greatest is sweepingly pretty and surprisingly accessible. It’s sad but not dysfunctional, a rainy-day album that’s at least cognizant of the fact that the sun will eventually come back out. Some diehard Cat Power devotees may scowl at Marshall’s newfound self-cohesion but, after all, you can only stand on the bridge’s railing for so long before people stop taking your threat to jump seriously. And I, for one, am glad she’s decided to step down.

Sun Kil Moon

What I didn’t know before buying it is that all of the songs on this album are Modest Mouse covers from various albums. Kozalek also did an unlikely tribute album to AC/DC in 2001. However, considering Kozalek has two solo albums plus six as frontman of the Red House Painters, it seems like less of a rip-off and more of a capital-T tribute, in that he presumably put off his own work to cover these songs. So with this album, Kozalek not only proves himself to be anything but the typical rock prima donna, he also does the tracks an obscene amount of justice. In a sense, the bleary and quiet Tiny Cities could be viewed as Modest Mouse-lite, but I prefer to call it Modest Mouse on Valium, which is inherently cooler in rock land. Where Modest Mouse’s “Neverending Math Equation” is manic, Kozalek’s is folky, comfortable and fuzzy. MM’s “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” may rock in its original electronic-funk form, but Kozalek’s wistful version gives the lyrics new and chilling evocations of lonesome. It’s as if Kozalek sensed the frantic bipolarity of MM frontman Isaac Brock’s lyrics and felt a calling to give the subconscious mellow dude inside a voice of his own. Catch Kozalek’s solo show at Blue Cats on Feb. 21.

© 2006 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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